March 22, 2017 10:49 pm
Updated: March 22, 2017 11:13 pm

Provincial budget sees cuts to Regina libraries, U of R funding

WATCH ABOVE: There's a lot in the Saskatchewan budget that will impact the City of Regina. Christa Dao breaks down just some of the changes you'll notice.

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Regina residents will likely see fewer services at their local library as the province announced they will be eliminating all funding to Regina and Saskatoon libraries.

The province said it will be a total savings of $1.3 million.

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Education Minister Don Morgan said the province no longer wants to be in the library business and they’re looking to electronic media and interlibrary sharing.

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“We think as a province we should be getting out of bricks and mortar libraries and people should be focusing on electronic or alternate media,” Morgan said.

“Libraries are expensive to operate.”

Morgan said there’s been a shift and more and more people are relying on electronic media.

“We’re going to focus province-wide on interlibrary sharing, copyrighted permits, and providing the electronic backbones so people can download books,” he said.

“A library may not be a place that should be used as a sanctuary. It should be there as a reading or research tool, and if people are needing a sanctuary, maybe there are other locations other than where we’re paying.”

The province had provided Regina Public Library close to $600,000 and Saskatoon Public Library about $660,000.

Grant in Lieu Cuts

The City of Regina currently receives money for SaskPower and SaskEnergy office buildings, in lieu of municipal taxes.

On Wednesday, the province said it will discontinue that payment, saving them about $36 million.

But for the city, it leaves an $11 million shortfall.

“We’re going to have to look at our budget to see how we make that up. This is downloading a significant cost to our city versus other parts of the province. Regina, Saskatoon equally hit,” Regina Mayor Michael Fougere said.

The mayor also added the city wasn’t aware of those changes.

“This is a big concern. We were not aware of these discussions happening at all… We’re going to have to look at our budget as to how we make that up,” he said.

“This is downloading a significant cost to our city. “

The discontinuation takes effect April 1.

University of Regina Cuts

The University of Regina (U of R) is also seeing cuts to their education.

All post-secondary institutions will be seeing a five per cent decrease according to this year’s budget. The Ministry of Advanced Education said as part of the planned restraint around the province, they will be reducing funding by a total of $30.1 million.

U of R president Vianne Timmons called it significant challenge to the school at a time when they are growing.

“We’re growing. We’ve been growing. Every year, and we anticipate we’ll continue to grow… It’s a pretty dramatic cut for the University of Regina. It’s not just 5 per cent, remember we were cut in December, a one per cent cut,” Timmons said.

She also added they were expecting a cut but was surprised by the amount.

The president said the cuts could mean job layoffs and rise in tuitions.

“This cut equates to over fifty positions… so it will not be replacing faculty members, not replacing staff members, any vacancies we will be looking at very carefully,” she said.

“We will be hard to keep any tuition increase as low as possible. We don’t want to see this on the back of our students.”

Wascana Centre

The province will also be taking over operations at the Wascana Centre.

The centre used to be run trilaterally, between the City of Regina, the University of Regina and the provincial government.

Mayor Fougere said there are currently no budget implications on the centre.

“For the moment, there’s no change in terms of investment and operating capital costs,” Fougere said.

He also added the Wascana Centre Authority board has been dissolved. No staff have been laid off.

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